Slower Torres can end Spain pain

Liverpool danger man and Fabregas warm to British style but Aragones warns it is his way or the highway
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The Independent Football

The English Premier League's finest will attempt to do what England failed to do last October and beat Russia on Tuesday as their Euro 2008 campaign kicks off in Innsbruck.

Young footballer of the year Cesc Fabregas and the runner-up to Cristiano Ronaldo in the senior award, Fernando Torres, face Guus Hiddink's Russian side as Spain look to end a run of 44 years without winning a major tournament. "Russia are a very difficult team, we saw that when they played against England," says Torres. "I think they are going to be one of the big surprises of the tournament."

The Liverpool striker is aware that with no England in Switzerland and Austria, many fans will be backing Spain because of club allegiances. Torres says: "It makes me so proud to think that there are people who are backing us to win it in England. English fans unfortunately don't have their team there and I'm happy they have Spain in their hearts to win the tournament."

Fabregas adds: "I feel sorry that they are not there. I know how difficult not making it to the finals has been for them. It was a massive blow, and I remember the faces of people when they were knocked out.

"It is always good to have England in the finals for all they bring to the game. The spirit, the quality and the passion of the fans. It is difficult to think of another set of supporters bringing the same enthusiasm. They always get behind me and ask why it is that with such a good team we never win things at the highest level. I hope in this tournament we can prove right those fans who say we have a great team ready to win a big tournament."

Having shone for their clubs this season, Torres and Fabregas would be most people's favourites to be among the stars of the tournament, but awayfrom their club sides both are struggling for form.

Fabregas is not certain of a starting place on Tuesday and Torres has not scored so far in any of the build-up games. Asked which Liverpool player he wishes was in the Spain team, the striker does not need to think for a second about the answer: "[Steven] Gerrard, of course," he says. The 33-goal forward is struggling in Spain's often pedestrian, over-elaborate build-up play. What he wouldn't do for one of Gerrard's killer passes.

"Spain's style is slower, with more touches on the ball, whereas with Liverpool everything is more direct," he says. "The style of play with Liverpool suits me very well, but now I am with Spain and so I have to adapt. The football is different, but those of us who come to the squad from playing abroad have to adapt to the style of Spain and not the reverse. But it is not easy changing from one day to the next."

Were the Spain team being built around Torres, then the emphasis might be on getting Fabregas to do for the Spain striker what Gerrard does for him at club level. But as far as Spain's coach, Luis Aragones, is concerned, Fabregas is not even guaranteed to face the Russians.

In criticism of both players last week, Aragones said: "It depends on them. They know that there are two possibilities when it comes to picking the style of play. One is the style in England, British football with the emphasis on getting away from your marker and the long-ball game, and the other is ours. Torres and Cesc have been in the squad a long time and they know how we play."